Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Time is a Green Orchard

{A Poem for My Mother on Her Birthday}

Today is my mother's birthday. Today is also the first day of cool, autumn weather in the desert, and my thoughts drift eastward to the farm where my parents still live, to the full hayloft, the steam rising off the warm bodies of the old mares in the morning, the loamy earth in the tilled-up vegetable garden.  Fall in New Jersey is a quiet, rich time, full of preparations for winter after a summer of joyful play.

My favorite variety of sunflower: sungold dwarf, also known as teddy bear sunflowers. A week past their prime but still marvelous in my book. Bud vase by Islesford, Maine potter Marian Baker.

My mother's birthday marks the beginning of apple-wood fires in the kitchen fireplace and Sunday nights of Masterpiece Theatre.  In the flower garden the sedum turns rosy and out beyond the fields the sassafras trees begin to put on their autumnal spectacle of color, waving to passersby with lobed leaves like red and gold mittens. Happy autumn to all you faithful readers, and happy birthday dearest mummy.

Here's a poem from our favorite poet; a poem about flowers, and trying to grow things, and walking back from the garden and into a warm house where a fire is burning, waiting for you:

A Celebration {by William Carlos Williams}

A middle-northern March, now as always--
gusts from the South broken against cold winds--
but from under, as if a slow hand lifted a tide,
it moves--not into April--into a second March,

the old skin of wind-clear scales dropping
upon the mold: this is the shadow projects the tree
upward causing the sun to shine in his sphere.

So we will put on our pink felt hat--new last year!
--newer this by virtue of brown eyes turning back
the seasons--and let us walk to the orchid-house,
see the flowers will take the prize tomorrow
at the Palace.
Stop here, these are our oleanders.
When they are in bloom--
You would waste words
It is clearer to me than if the pink
were on the branch. It would be a searching in
a colored cloud to reveal that which now, huskless,
shows the very reason for their being.

And these the orange-trees, in blossom--no need
to tell with this weight of perfume in the air.
If it were not so dark in this shed one could better
see the white.
It is that very perfume
has drawn the darkness down among the leaves.
Do I speak clearly enough?
It is this darkness reveals that which darkness alone
loosens and sets spinning on waxen wings--
not the touch of a finger-tip, not the motion
of a sigh. A too heavy sweetness proves
its own caretaker.
And here are the orchids!
Never having seen
such gaiety I will read these flowers for you:
This is an odd January, died--in Villon's time.
Snow, this is and this the stain of a violet
grew in that place the spring that foresaw its own doom.

And this, a certain July from Iceland:
a young woman of that place
breathed it toward the South. It took root there.
The color ran true but the plant is small.

This falling spray of snow-flakes is
a handful of dead Februaries
prayed into flower by Rafael Arevalo Martinez
of Guatemala.
Here's that old friend who
went by my side so many years: this full, fragile
head of veined lavender. Oh that April
that we first went with our stiff lusts
leaving the city behind, out to the green hill--
May, they said she was. A hand for all of us:
this branch of blue butterflies tied to this stem.

June is a yellow cup I'll not name; August
the over-heavy one. And here are--
russet and shiny, all but March. And March?
Ah, March--
Flowers are a tiresome pastime.
One has a wish to shake them from their pots
root and stem, for the sun to gnaw.

Walk out again into the cold and saunter home
to the fire. This day has blossomed long enough.
I have wiped out the red night and lit a blaze
instead which will at least warm our hands
and stir up the talk.
I think we have kept fair time.
Time is a green orchard.


  1. the sunflowers are dazzling (never seen this variety before), the blue vase is beautiful, your photography stunning.

  2. you are stunning. this post is beautiful. love you!

  3. Hi, nice to meet you! Teddybear sunflowers are the perfect name for these blooms. Happy Autumn.

  4. wow the third one looks just like a van gogh - dare i say better? haha

  5. Lily my friend, I was just going to write that the third photo looked just like a Van Gogh Sunflowers but looks like Sherry beat me to the punch.

  6. happy birthday to your mother:) I love husband brings them home almost every week in summer.
    I loved reading your profile by the inspiring.

  7. I carried Teddy Bear sunflowers for my wedding!!!! They add instant cheer and make me happy from head to toe. Happy Birthday to your mom!!!! Loved the poem and the pictures!! :)

  8. These are stunning.
    I love textural flowers.
    A week past is a-okay in my book.

  9. Sigh. William Carlos Williams. Now you've really won my heart.

    xo Gigi


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